Spring

greengarlicstirfryIf you've been hoping to brush up on your stir-fry skills, there's no better time to do just that than now. Spring gives you the best opportunity with so many different vegetables to cook with—and they're all amazing in a stir-fry. There are green beans, broccoli, asparagus, and soon there will be peas, but in the meantime green garlic is what you should be looking for in the farmers' market.

With a much more subtle garlic flavor than mature bulbs, green garlic looks more like scallions or baby leeks. But if you can't tell the difference at the market you'll just have to smell them. The stalks are entirely edible, from the pale white bulb to the dark green leaves. Green garlic is great for soup or used as an alternative to regular garlic. But it's more interesting in a dish that keeps its integrity and makes it the center of attention and this stir-fry does just that.

The recipe also includes another oddity of spring-purple asparagus. Raw it has a glorious purple color but once cooked it turns dark green, losing that deep hue. If you can't find purple asparagus, double up on green. One tip for making this stir-fry: Make sure to have all the ingredients prepped in advance because you don't want to be slicing the asparagus while the garlic is burning.

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redpepperdip"Back again?" (no smile)

That's the response I got from the cashier when I returned to my local market for the third time in three days.

"Wow, you must really love peppers." (eye roll)

That's what she said when I gently placed my nine red bell peppers on the conveyor belt. That's after having bought six the previous day and three before that, all with the same cashier. Does she ever go home?

I took umbrage neither to her eye rolling nor to her indelicate handling of my pristine peppers. If she doesn't realize the mind-blazing deal of red bell peppers 3 for $1, then I can't help her. I also won't be sharing my garlicky roasted red pepper and almond dip with her. So, there.

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kumquat-cookies-blog-074C-1024x683How can anyone resist tart and tiny kumquats, sitting so cute and bright in the produce department at the grocery store? They just look happy. I buy them every year as soon as they make their first seasonal appearance. I never have a plan for them when I set them in my basket, but it doesn’t matter. I buy the organic kumquats, rinse them well and, after I’ve cut the stem ends off, I pop them into my mouth one after the other, as if they were orange jelly beans.

Yes, these little cuties are totally edible, although they do have seeds hiding inside that seem large for such a tiny fruit. To remove seeds, slice kumquats in half and squeeze them gently and the seeds will pop out.

The skin is tender and sweet, while the flesh can be dry and very tart, compared with oranges. Kumquats that are soft will be less juicy, but they are perfectly acceptable for most uses. Store them in a plastic bag in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator for up to three weeks. One kumquat has about 12 calories and is a good source of vitamin C.

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strawberrymuffin.jpgI love this time of year.  So many good things are available at the market and in such abundance.  I often become distracted with all the choices, making it difficult not to come home with more groceries than I need.  I then proceed to have a freak out while trying to use it all up.

I definitely overbought on strawberries last week and needed a plan.  Luckily I came across these Strawberry Yogurt Muffins over at Culinary Wannabe. They are the perfect breakfast muffin; healthy, low-cal, filling and very yummy. I individually wrapped each one and froze them together in a Ziploc bag for a quick breakfast.

This muffin uses part whole wheat flour which I prefer  when it comes to breakfast noshing. However, these do not taste healthy at all. In fact, they taste a bit sinful. They are awesome.

If you have some strawberries to use up, I would consider making these, you'll love them.

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artichoke_graphic_mattbites.jpgMy first foray into a closer relationship with artichokes began as a work assignment. Drive to Lompoc, California, chat with a farmer, get some pictures and get back to Los Angeles without becoming a part of the daily human-and-metal gridlock. Coffee in hand, I raced up the 5, beating traffic and made it with a few minutes to spare.

Until that point, I categorized artichokes as one of those foods shrouded in history, enjoyed by Romans and Greeks but not necessarily an everyday part of my kitchen. Spiky, thorny, gorgeous yet inhospitable, my little mind was about to be opened to the joys of this thistle.

I spent the day with Steve Jordan. Steve is a man who knows his chokes. In fact, his level of knowledge is quite intimidating. Serious, polite and quiet, Steve is a forth generation California farmer who has been growing artichokes for over twenty years. California grows the majority of artichokes consumed in the United States, and they’ve been grown here since the 1800s when Italian immigrants brought them to the west. The coastal weather of areas like Lompoc and Castroville are perfect for artichokes, and here they thrive like crazy.

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